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ReserveVoice: March 15, 2016

Legislative Update

President’s 2017 Budget


In the 29 February edition of the ReserveVoice we discussed the Blended Retirement System and in this edition DoD’s answers questions on the proposed reform to TRICARE for fiscal year 2017.
 

TRICARE Select / TRICARE Choice

  1. If Congress was to pass this proposal as part of the FY2017 NDAA, how long do you believe implementation would take?
Response
Our plan is to implement the changes in January 2018 (about a year to implement).
  1. Please explain how the proposed TRICARE Select and TRICARE Choice options are different from the current TRICARE Prime and TRICARE Standard. The proposed plans seem the same as the current plans with the exception of higher out of pocket costs under the FY17 proposed plan options.
Response
TRICARE Select is very similar to TRICARE Prime with the exception of different co-pays for primary vs. specialty care.
TRICARE Choice is a modern PPO. Notice that in-network care has fixed copays without having to pay a deductible. This means beneficiaries will know up front what their out of pocket costs will be. No more waiting for the claim to be processed to find out how much you owe the provider.
  1. Does TRICARE Select require a beneficiary to have Primary Care Manager (PCM) in the direct care system or can a beneficiary elect to have a PCM in the civilian network? What is the no cost care option for active duty family members (ADFMs) without Military Treatment Facility (MTF) access (current TRICARE Prime Remote enrollees)? Is this proposal the same as the FY16 proposal: ADFMs who live remotely from an MTF must self-manage their care, but will be exempt from copays, cost shares, and deductibles?

ROA's legislative director, Susan Lukas, briefs ROA National Councilmembers on the association's 2016 legislative agenda before they hit the pavement and the halls of Congress for March on the Hill.

Response
TRICARE Select will have both MTF and civilian PCMs. However, as it is today with Prime, if there is capacity at the MTF, the beneficiary will be directed to enroll with the MTF.
There will be an option similar to TRICARE Prime Remote for ADFMS who live in remote locations, where they will self-manage with no copays, cost shares or deductibles
  1. This proposal is designed to drive greater patient volume to the MTFs. We appreciate that the FY17 budget document acknowledges several areas of deficiency within the Military Health System (MHS) per the bullet points on page 6-12. What are the specific plans and timing for addressing these problems, especially access to care and providing a better consideration of children’s needs, as DoD drives more volume to the MTFs? How will the Department evaluate how effectively MTFs manage increased workload and improve access? In cases where demand exceeds capacity, how will MTF access be prioritized? NOTE: the budget document referenced in this question is accessible online at: http://comptroller.defense.gov/
Response
We are going to modernize access to care– in-person, by telephone, by computer – thereby increasing timeliness and convenience; streamlining referrals to specialists; making it easier to use military clinics and hospitals; improving customer service performance; making sure military families can move around the world without a paperwork hassle.
We will expand technology, like secure messaging and telehealth; make greater use of smart phone apps; extend hours to evenings and weekends; maximize our 24/7 health advice line; implement a modern Electronic Health Record; implement “first call resolution” policies so individuals get issues resolved in one call; and implement our Urgent Care Demonstration consistent with Congress’ intent.
To monitor progress, we will be using an enterprise dashboard that all senior leaders collectively track monthly. We will ensure our progress and milestones are briefed to the military and veterans organizations on a monthly basis.
Access to MTF care will be prioritized as it is today, Active Duty first, TRICARE Select next, TRICARE Plus next and others on a space-available basis. All of this will also take into account the needs of our providers to maintain their skills.
  1. How/why did you decide to peg participation fee increases to National Health Expenditure increases?
Response
Health Care Expenditure rate is a better reflection of change in health care costs and will tend to maintain a more equitable balance between the beneficiary and the Government.
 
Blended Retirement Education
 
DoD has begun work on three courses explaining the new blended retirement.
  1. a leader overview of the blended retirement system (fielded by June 2016);
  2. a course focused on those Service members with less than 12 years of service as of December 31, 2017 who will be eligible to opt-in (fielded by January 1, 2017); and
  3. a course for new accessions who enter the force on January 1, 2018 and beyond – who are now under the new blended system (fielded by January 1, 2018).
 The courses for service members and accessions will include calculators so that Service members can make comparisons to understanding the impact and how contributions to the TSP will affect their retirement planning. The courses will also address how the programs apply to the active and reserve components because of the differences in calculations that were included in the law. DoD will beta test the courses at least three months before delivery.


New York Congressman Chris Gibson (R-19, center in photo, with ROA Dept. of NY National Councilman Ed Downey, a retired Army Reserve colonel), spoke today to ROA's National Council at their annual leadership meeting and March on the Hill about his bill that would halt the drawdown in Army and Marine Corps strength.  Drawdowns now planned will shrink the Army to pre-WWII levels at a time ROA Executive Director Jeff Phillips (at right) has said is the nation's most dangerous since December 1941.

ROA’s Position Clearly Delivered

 
ROA cited in progress of healthcare continuity for the Reserve Components: “Graham’s backing of FEHBP access appears to align with the goal, if not the details, of a proposal from Reserve Officers Association to create a new Tricare Reserve Choice program. That plan would allow Reserve and Guard members to choose their own health care providers, paying premiums equal to 25 percent of plan costs, a cost-share formula similar to FEHBP.”
 

Graham: Open federal health plan to Guard, Reserves

 
By Tom Philpott March 13, 2016
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., chairman of the Senate armed services subcommittee on military personnel, signaled Tuesday he will support a plan to allow drilling Reserve and Guard members to have access to the menu of health insurance plans offered to federal civilian employees.

“We’re actually thinking about taking the Guard and Reserve and basically putting (them) into the federal employees health system, right,” Graham asked Scott Bousum, legislative director of The Enlisted Association of the National Guard, who acknowledged the plan.
 
“To me that’s pretty exciting,” Graham said. “I mean guard and reservists, generally speaking, are not (residing) next to military treatment facilities and it basically would give you the same access to providers as members of Congress and our staffs have.”
 
If allowed insurance coverage under the Federal Employees Health Benefit Plan, reserve component members would have to pay monthly premiums like federal civilian employees do, Graham emphasized.

But opening FEHBP would address a common complaint of Reserve and Guard personnel that continuity of care for their families often is interrupted when they are called to active duty. That’s because they either lose their employer-paid health insurance or they face significantly higher health costs by electing to continue coverage and paying the employer’s share too.
 
About 24,000 Reserve and Guard members are satisfied with more limited Tricare Reserve Select coverage despite its own continuity of care issues. To Bousum’s suggestion that TRS be included among FEHBP options for reserve component personnel, Graham said “Perfect.”
 
Graham’s backing of FEHBP access appears to align with the goal, if not the details, of a proposal from Reserve Officers Association to create a new Tricare Reserve Choice program. That plan would allow Reserve and Guard members to choose their own health care providers, paying premiums equal to 25 percent of plan costs, a cost-share formula similar to FEHBP.
 
The full armed services committee, followed by majorities of the Senate and the House, would need to rally behind one of these ideas before reserve component personnel would see health care coverage improve.

Tuesday’s hearing, which began with testimony from personnel chiefs of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps and then advocates for military families, focused on proposed Tricare “reforms” and higher fees, a shift to more business-like commissary operations and product pricing and needed changes to the “blended” retirement plan due for launch in 2018.
 
Senators also returned again and again to the need for colleagues to end budget-driven cuts to U.S. ground forces by acknowledging worldwide threats that have arisen since passage of the Budget Control Act of 2011.
 
Graham opened the hearing promising to oppose the administration’s call for a 1.6 percent military pay cap next January, a fourth consecutive raise that would fail to keep pace with private sector wages growth.
  
On Tricare, the personnel chiefs endorsed the Defense Department’s push to care for as many patients as possible in military treatment facilities versus sending them into Tricare civilian provider networks. The aim is to hold down costs while enhancing medical staff proficiency and readiness.
 
If health care can become more efficient, then more budget dollars would be available to train and equip the force, said Lt. Gen. James C. McConville, Army’s deputy chief of staff for personnel.
 
“There is not enough money to go around so we need to look every place and Tricare is one,” McConville said.
 
But forcing more patients into on-base care without first reforming a broken appointment process could deepen frustrations for families, warned Joyce Raezer, executive director of National Military Family Association.
 
“We surveyed more than 6,100 military spouses in December and January,” Raezer said. “Nearly 30 percent of those who use military treatment facilities reported they rarely or never get an acute care appointment within the 24-hour access standard.”
 
Tricare reforms proposed in the fiscal year 2017 defense budget call for higher fees and co-pays, particularly on working-age retirees and their families, but are short on details for improving benefits delivery, Raezer said.
 
“Continuing to recapture care in military hospitals, already failing to provide timely, appropriate access to current enrollees, will neither improve patient satisfaction nor comprehensively address readiness needs,” she said.
 
The new retirement plan, which a majority of the current force will be invited to join, will offer a Thrift Savings Plan with government matching of contributions, but it would pare the immediate annuity payable after 20 years or more years of service by 20 percent compared to current benefits.
 
McConville said he already is concerned that career soldiers won’t contribute enough to TSP, or begin contributions early enough, to ensure TSP accounts to make up for a 20 percent cut in lifetime retired pay.
 
 The blended plan’s “great value” is that 85 percent of members “will get some type of retirement” upon leaving service, McConville said. “But a lot of our young soldiers live paycheck to paycheck and if they can’t start saving early, they’re going to have a tough time . . . when they get to 20, 25 years.”
 
The other personnel chiefs focused criticism of blended retirement on the continuation payment to be offered after 12 years’ service to members who agree to serve another four years. The size and timing of the payment must be made more flexible to properly shape mid-career forces, they said.
 
The personnel chiefs also want government matching of TSP contributions to continue beyond the 26-year ceiling Congress adopted last year. Graham, on the other hand, promised to reject the administration’s call to delay government matching of TSP until the start of the fifth year of service, two years later than lawmakers had voted last year.
 
“It was an intentional choice by this committee to set eligibility (for TSP matching) to two years and one day of service,” Graham said, so that thousands more members would leave service with some retirement benefit. Graham said he won’t allow that to be reversed.
 
Send comments to Military Update, P.O. Box 231111, Centreville, VA, 20120, email milupdate@aol.com or tweet @Military_Update.

Army Update

ROA hosted on 8 March a major educational forum entitled “The Impact of the National Commission on the Future of the Army on the Army’s Reserves.” The program featured Commission Vice Chairman, the Hon. Tom Lamont, former Assistant Secretary of the Army, Commissioner Lt Gen Jack Stultz (Ret), Commission Staff Director Maj Gen Ray Carpenter (Ret), Maj Gen Michael Smith, Deputy Chief of the Army Reserve, and Maj Gen Richard Gallant, Special Assistant to the Director of the Army Guard, and from the United States Army War College Dr. Andrew Hill. Bob Feidler, ROA Army Director, coordinated the program and gave the program introduction; ROA Executive Director Jeff Phillips served as the program moderator.

The program was jointly sponsored by the ROA Defense Education Forum, the National Guard Association of the United State, and the Reserve Forces Policy Board Fellows Society. The program was underwritten through a generous gift from Al Zapanta, a former Chairman of the RFPB.

The program was webcast and can be viewed on the ROA website. The speakers reviewed the major elements of the report and its impact on the RC. The goal of One Army was deemed a great aspiration – but still aspirational. It was also noted that the report will be a basis to reflect on some fundamental questions such as: Why do we need an Active Component? Why does it matter? Are there other options? By being a robust One Army, doesn’t this create good options for policy makers which other services may not be able to provide?

The Commission issued its report on 28 January 2016 following nine months of intensive review about how the army should be sized and postured. The full report can be found at www.ncfa.ncr.gov.
 

NCFA Mission

In light of the projected security environment, conduct a comprehensive study of the roles and structure of the Army, and policy assumptions related to the size and force mixture of the Army, in order to:
  1. Make an assessment of the size and force mixture of the active component of the Army and the reserve components of the Army.
  2. Make recommendations on the modifications, if any, of the structure of the Army related to current and anticipated mission requirements for the Army at acceptable levels of national risk and in a manner consistent with available resources and anticipated future resources.
  3. Make an assessment of proposed AH-64 transfers from Army National Guard to the Regular Army.
Ultimately, the Commission made 63 recommendations that could be acted upon either by the President, legislative amendment or policy changes by DoD or the Department of the Army. 13 of the recommendations have a direct impact on the Army Reserve and Guard. The Commission focused on four principles: it took a Total Army approach and finding each component of the Army essential (in other words, don’t merge the Guard and Reserve); it considered each recommendation in light of how it would impact the All-Volunteer Force which is found to be absolutely necessary; it viewed its recommendations in light of the needs of the Combatant Commanders and the Governors of the States; and it tried to balance risk to mission to risk to force.

Perhaps the key finding of the report was “that an Army of 980,000 is the minimally sufficient force to meet current and anticipated missions with an acceptable level of national risk. Within that Army of 980,000, the Commission finds that a Regular Army of 450,000, an Army National Guard of 335,000 and an Army Reserve of 195,000 represent, again, absolute minimums to meet America’s national security objectives.” They also found that the reserve components must be resourced to provide both needed operational capability and the strategic depth the nation requires in the event of a full mobilization for unforeseen requirements. They found that the Reserves should be maintained at currently planned readiness levels, and every effort should be made to increase funding for modernization. The Army faces continuing budget pressure in the years to come have been cut 7% over the past few years and seeing a severe drop – 35% - in that portion of the budget related to research and modernization. The Commission strongly urged supported of the President’s FY16 budget and proposed budgets for the years to follow to sustain the Army and permit it to engage in new modernization programs.

Other key recommendations dealt with the need to increase the short range air defense capabilities, expansion of the use of what is known as Section 12304b mobilizations (such mobilizations must be planned for two years in advance and budgeted for, but many missions of the RC are ideal for this type of mobilization such as theater sustainment missions), CBRN missions, and greater use of multi-component units.

The Chief of Staff of the Army, General Mark Milley, has responded quickly and made clear the response developed for his consideration must take a One Army approach. Teams have been assigned to review each recommendation and these results are processed through a Council of Colonels, and two and three star GOSCs prior to being presented to senior army leadership for their review.  

Although speculative, it appears the senior leadership will be favorably disposed to the Commission recommendation dealing with the Aviation Restructuring Initiative (ARI) that was a source of heated and open debate between senior army leaders and the National Guard – and the issue that may well have precipitated the creation of the Commission. In short, the Army will keep 20 Apache battalions and the ARNG will retain 4, albeit with fewer aircraft (18) per battalion than Regular Army (24). The one recommendation that has not been favorably received by senior army leaders is the cutting of two Infantry Brigade Combat Teams (IBCT) from the active force structure – they were to be bill payers for other of the recommendations. With the Force stretched in over 170 countries, and future personnel cuts in the pipeline – down from the current Regular Army of about 485,000 to 450,000 – there is simply no mood to cut further combat units.

Many of the recommendations may see final action this calendar year either thru inclusion in the NDAA17 or in policy changes by DoD and the Army. ROA salutes the Commission for an outstanding job and it final report showed it clearly understood the proper utilization and role of the RC within the Total Army.
 

RFPB Acts on Definition of Operational Reserve

The Reserve Forces Policy Board on 9 March favorably adopted all the recommendations of the Commission report relating to the Army’s Reserves, specifically, recommendations 1, 6, 12, 26, 27, 30, 31, 32, 33, 37, 49, 52, and 57. Further, they adopted a definition of “operational reserve” which they will transmit to the SecDef and with the expectation that it will become the standard definition in the DoD lexicon. The definition is as follows:

“Operational Reserve. An operational reserve provides ready capabilities and capacity that are accessible, routinely utilized, and fully integrated for military missions, that are planned, programmed, and budgeted in coordination with the active component.”
The Board declined to adopt a definition for the term Strategic Reserve.

Air Force Update

Kelly next Air Force Reserve command chief master sergeant

 
TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE — Chief Master Sgt. Erika Kelly, command chief for the 349th Air Mobility Wing at Travis, has been named the next command chief master sergeant of the Air Force Reserve Command, according to the 349th’s Public Affairs Office.
 
Kelly’s new assignment was announced earlier in the day by Lt. Gen. James F. Jackson, commander of the Air Force Reserve Command at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia.
 
She will replace current Command Chief Master Sgt. Cameron Kirksey, who is set to retire in March.
 
Kelly before coming to the 349th was the command chief for the 452nd Air Mobility Wing at March Air Reserve Base. Before serving as the lead enlisted position of the two largest wings in the Air Force Reserve, she served in the aeromedical-evacuation career field.
 
She has deployed numerous times in support of contingency operations that include Operation Restore Hope, and Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.
 
Kelly joined the Air Force Reserve in 1987. She first came to Travis in 1993 from Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, to serve here with the 349th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron.

Navy Update

The Navy recently sent out a message to rollout the Navy Reserve Annual Report: 2015 Strategic Update, “In closing out our century of service, Navy Reserve Sailors—FTS and SELRES alike—continued providing critical support to the Fleets and Combatant Commanders around the world to ensure the Navy’s maritime superiority. The highlights of those efforts and some thoughts about future work have been captured in an annual report video at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mKU3IUDrIG8."

Coast Guard Update

US Coast Guard Community: NC county second in country
to receive the honor

MIKE SHUTAK Carolina Coast Online
MOREHEAD CITY — On Thursday, Carteret County became the second county in the nation to be recognized for its support of the men and women who serve in the U.S. Coast Guard.
The USCG [has] named Carteret County an official Coast Guard Community, a designation that was previously only held by Camden County in southeast Georgia. Rear Adm. Stephen Metruck, commander of the Fifth U.S. Coast District, presented Carteret County Chairman Robin Comer with a framed proclamation at the Crystal Coast Civic Center before a crowd of people from around the county, as well as representatives from the offices of Republican U.S. Senators Thom Tillis and Richard Burr.  More at Carolina Coast Online

Fifth Coast Guard District Rear Adm. Stephen P. Metruck, left, presents County Commissioner Robin Comer with a document designating Carteret County a Coast Guard Community at a ceremony in Morehead City, NC. (Dylan Ray photo)

Department News

The North Carolina Department of ROA was honored to accept the life membership of U.S. Army Reserve Command’s Command Sgt. Maj. James Wills.
 

Command Sgt. Maj. James Wills, U.S. Army Reserve Command and ROA Life Member, with his Soldiers. U.S. Army photo

Reunions:

Outfit:


Reunion Date:
Location:
Contacts:
12th TFW (MacDill AFB and Vietnam),
12th FEW/SFW (Bergstrom AFB and Korea)
and all their supporting units

April 20-24, 2016
Charleston, SC
E.J. Sherwood  ej12tfw@cox.net or 480-396-4681
The USS Ticonderoga (CV/CVA/CVS-14, CG-47) reunion will be in Las Vegas, NV, May 19-23, 2016, at the Gold Coast Hotel.

Contact: Floyd Frank: (702) 361-6660 or papacva14@aol.com
U.S.S. Wilhoite (DE/DER-397)
September 12-15, 2016
Crowne Plaza at the Airport
2829 Williams Boulevard, New Orleans, LA
Website: www.usswilhoite.org
Contact: Elisabeth Kimball
236 Linker Mountain Road, Dover, AR 72837
479-968-1236/479-280-2776
canerday@centurytel.net
The biannual reunion of the USS Turner Joy, DD-951, will take place 21-25 September 2016 at the Holiday Inn Virginia Beach-Norfolk Hotel & Convention Center.  The hotel is located at 5655 Greenwich Road, Virginia Beach, Va. 23462
Details and registration information can be obtained at the USS Turner Joy website: http://www.ussturnerjoy.com
 

 
Richard D. Haight
USS Turner Joy DD-951
Reunion Coordinator
12359 Cold Stream Guard Ct.
Bristow, Va. 20136
Rickh20136@verizon.net
U.S.S. John R. Craig (DD-885)
September 20-25, 2016
Holiday Inn, Nashville Airport
Nashville, Tenn.
Website: www.ussjohnrcraig.com
Contact: Jerry Chwalek
9307 Louisiana Street, Livonia, MI 48185 jermail@ameritech.net
Outfit:

Reunion Date:
Location:
Contacts:
UPT Class 67C

October 28-30, 2017
Mesa, AZ   
Contact Jerry Engles for further information: 
jengles386@gmail.com

Law Reviews:

Legal analysis on the issues impacting your life in and out of uniform


Former Service Member’s Law Center director, retired USNR Capt. Sam Wright, provides periodic law review updates.  Please see ROA’s Law Center webpage for more information on service members’ law.
  • No. 16012 Enforcing USERRA against a Federal Agency
  • No. 16013 Recent Favorable Federal Circuit USERRA Decision
  • No. 16014 Another Recent Federal Sector USERRA Victory
  • No. 16015 Differential Pay—Don’t Abuse your Employer’s Generosity
  • No. 16016 USERRA Gives you the Right to Time off from your Civilian Job for Service in the Uniformed Services
  • No. 16017 Agent Orange Exposure among “Blue Water” Sailors—Part 2
Visit the Service Members Law Center
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Reserve Voice is published on the 15th and 30th of each month by the Reserve Officers Association of the United States, the nation’s leading advocate for Reserve Component policy and resourcing, and support of RC service members and their families.

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